Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.05.16

Reinhold Merkelbach, Josef Stauber, Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, bd. 1: Die Westküste Kleinasiens von Knidos bis Ilion.   Stuttgart und Leipzig:  B.G. Teubner, 1998.  Pp. xv, 647.  ISBN 3-519-07446-X.  DM 248.  

Reviewed by Julia Lougovaya, University of Toronto
Word count: 2102 words

This is the first in a projected three-volume collection of verse inscriptions from the Greek East, Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten (SGO). R. Merkelbach and J. Stauber have included in this volume verse inscriptions from the western coast of Asia Minor, from Cnidus to Ilium. In total, there are over 600 complete texts, including epigrams that are likely to have once been inscribed on a stone but are attested only in literary sources (about 10% of the epigrams). The book seems intended to make the epigraphical material accessible not only to specialists but to a general audience, for which reason the editors provide much useful information on the cultural and historical context of the inscriptions, while also including photographs of some monuments. In contrast to IG, the editors have opted to present lemmata, critical apparatuses, translations and brief commentaries in German rather than in Latin, in order to offer a more reader friendly collection.

The organization of SGO follows a strict geographical principle. The islands along the coast of Asia Minor are, however, excluded, with the exceptions of Patmus and Lepsia. The absence of Rhodes is especially regrettable, since the Rhodian Peraea is included. The material is divided into seven sections corresponding to seven regions, all indicated by the first set of numerals in a tripartite numeration system: the Carian coast (01), the Carian inland and the Maeander Valley (02), Ionia (03), Lydia (Hermus Valley) (04), Smyrna along with Aeolis (05), the Caecus Valley and Pergamum (06), and the Troad (07). Subsections are indicated by a second set of numerals, which point to the specific location within a given region; the third set of numerals signifies individual epigrams. Thus, for example, 01/20/27 refers to epigram 27 from Miletus (20) on the Carian Coast (01). Complete epigrams begin, in the third set of numerals, with 01 and ascend in order, while fragments begin with 100 - n, where n equals the number of fragments (with the exception of Ephesus, where the fragments begin with 200 - n). The advantage of this type of system appears to be that it affords easy supplementation, should new inscriptions, whether complete or fragmentary, appear. Each section is preceded by a list of places included and a map, while each subsection begins with a list of the title of each epigram. Within a specific geographical location, oracles, if there are any, are given first. Dedications tend to precede epitaphs, although they do not do so consistently, and genres are not rubricated. In addition, epigrams do not always appear chronologically; if there is a reason for this, it is unclear.

Each entry has a title and often an introduction that may vary from a brief description of the monument to a discussion of relevant historical information. For the text of the inscription, the editors include both verse and, in a smaller font, prose (when it appears on the stone); in addition, both verse and line divisions are indicated, as well as changes of script. The employment of epigraphical sigla is reduced to a minimum, and ambiguities are intended to be clarified in the commentary. As they state in the introduction, the editors of SGO offer supplements only in those cases where they can do so with a fair amount of certainty, and they often either adopt or mention in the commentary emendations proposed by Peek and Kaibel. Each text is accompanied by a translation that demonstrates how the editors interpret the inscription. A commentary follows, which includes various kinds of notes, from linguistic (intended to assist the reader with the Greek) to historical and literary. A brief bibliography and information about the monument (date, place where the stone was discovered, and current location) are reserved for the end of each entry.

The new collection presents no new inscriptions, although some it includes have been only recently discovered and may not be widely known. Of these, I would draw attention to the following entries. 01/01/12 (IK 41.501) is an epigram dating to the third quarter of the sixth century BC for a wealthy craftsman from Cnidus; the right part of it (SEG 28.845) had long been known and was listed in CEG under varia (462), but the recently discovered left side suggests that this rather unconventional inscription was sepulchral. 01/09/02-06 (SEG 44.893) is a monument consisting of five extant statue bases that was set up ca. 300 BC by Protogenes of Caunus (very likely the famous painter/sculptor and rival of Apelles) for himself, his parents and two friends; SGO includes a photograph of the bases connected by a semicircular podium. At 01/12/02 SGO presents an inscription dated to the mid- to late second century BC and entitled "Halikarnassische Mythen, Dichter und Literaten," first published by S. Isager, ZPE 123 (1998). For the text, the editors follow, for the most part, Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, ZPE 124 (1999), but in a supplementary discussion assign (pace Lloyd-Jones) authorship to Heraclitus of Halicarnassus, the friend of Callimachus. Subsequently, however, the editors seem to have doubted this assignment, see Lloyd-Jones, ZPE 127 (1999), 65.

Oracles and epigrams concerning religious practice generally receive the fullest commentary, which aims to reconstruct the cultural context in which the inscriptions appeared. Among oracles, a recently discovered inscription from Heraclea by Latmus (01/23/02 = SEG 40.956, 1st c. AD), concerning the procedure of awarding the priesthood of Athene, receives an interesting historical introduction. Two well known oracular inscriptions from Magnesia on the Maeander are noteworthy for the extensive commentary that the editors provide. The first one (02/01/01 = O.Kern, IM 17, ca. 207 BC), which comprises five (the first one is missing from the stone) verse oracles separated by prose, narrates the story of the foundation of the city. The introductory article has an excellent brief survey of the evidence for Magnesia -- from literary testimonia to archaeological evidence, illustrating how the early history of Magnesia may have been "revised" in the Hellenistic period. The second one (02/01/02 = O. Kern, IM 215, 2nd c. AD) pertains to the establishment of the cult of Dionysus. The commentary allows the reader to view the inscription in the broader context of what is known about the cult of Dionysus. Among epigrams concerning religious practice, I would single out 01/17/01 (SEG, 43, 710), an ordinance from the temple of Zeus Lepsynus in Euromus that stipulates that only the pure of heart may enter. In the commentary, the editors offer four parallel texts from elsewhere, also elegiac, two of which are from Rhodes. In the entry on the statue of Attis (04/15/01, 3rd c. AD), which was discovered at Thermae Theseos in Lydia, one can find an interesting analysis of a Neoplatonic interpretation of the myth of Attis, followed by a brief description of evidence for the cult of Attis there.

In the treatment of grave epigrams, the editors offer valuable cross-references to other texts within the collection and to sources elsewhere (though these are mainly literary and not epigraphical), thereby allowing the reader to trace repeated similes and poetic allusions to classical and Hellenistic literature. For example, the comparison of a mother who lost her child to a grieving halcyon is found in three epitaphs, one from Halicarnassus (01/12/20 = GV 1079, Hellenistic) and two from Smyrna (05/01/44 = GV 701, 2nd c. BC; 05/01/55 = GV 1545, 2nd c. AD). The origin of the simile is found in the Iliad (9.561-4), and parallels occur elsewhere in Greek poetry (see the commentary at 01/12/20) but not in inscriptions before Hellenistic times. Moreover, the introduction of a simile with the clause οἷά τις is absent from earlier epitaphs (notably, the clause appears in similes involving mourning birds at Aesch. Ag. 1142 and Soph. Tr. 105).

Another issue that emerges from the collection is the topic of grave imprecations, for which Phrygian inscriptions are renowned, but which appear elsewhere in Asia Minor. Several of these are offered in this volume (e.g. 01/16/01, 04/09/02, 05/05/01), with references to a recent book by J. Strubbe, ARAI EPITUMBIOI (1997) (= IK 52). Here, one may regret the absence of Rhodes. SGO presents an epitaph for Diagoras of Smyrna in the Rhodian Peraea (01/06/01 = SEG 14.718) dated to the third century BC, which, although not technically an imprecation, includes an expression, ὄφρα μή τις πημήνηι, that resembles protases of later sepulchral curses. The expression also appears in a six-century epigram from Rhodes: Ζεὺ δέ νιν ὅστις πημαίνοι λειόλη θείη (IG XII.1.737, CEG 459; λειώλης· τελείως ἐξώλης, for the wording of curses containing ἐξώλης see the catalogue in Strubbe, ARAI, 294-5), which may in fact be an epitaph (pace Hansen). Following CEG in the belief that it is not an epitaph, Strubbe omits this Archaic inscription from her catalogue of grave imprecations, and the geographical principle of SGO also precludes its inclusion. Yet some acknowledgment of this inscription might have been useful.

The editors aim to make their notes interesting and useful for both understanding the inscription and reconstructing its cultural context, and they generally succeed. Yet, while some commentaries appear to assist inexperienced readers, others pass over in silence really difficult passages. For example, there is no indication in the entry on the oracle of Delphic Apollo at Tralles (02/02/01 = IK 36.1, ca. 200-250 AD) that the inscription is problematic. The last two lines are particularly puzzling: ἀμφινέμεσθε is not an obvious improvement on the stone's ΑΜΦΕΠΕΝΣΘΕ (plausibly rendered by Parke-Wormell, The Delphic Oracle II (1956), 191, and J. Fontenrose, The Delphic Oracle (1978), 190-91, as ἀμφιπένεσθε), and the explanation of the stone's ΜΕΙΛΑ? (daggered by most editors) as "mit der (gesamten) Jungmannschaft," poses syntactical problems and should be justified. In the entry to the Archaic epitaph from Amus for Hippomenes (01/07/01 = IK 38.351), the printed text is not consistent with the drawing, unless h-signs for aspiration marks were meant in the Greek text but have dropped out from the final typescript. In addition, the first letter of the third line is printed as ο, while ω appears on the stone. If the first syllable is long, the line is more likely to be metrical. The second verse of the epigram, πολλᾶν ἡβᾶν πεδάμοιρος ἔγεντο, is unusual, and the commentary seems insufficient. The line is translated, "Vieler Jahre in jugendlicher Kraft wurde er teilhaftig"; πεδάμοιρος, however, is an unattested, though possible, compound. I wonder whether one should divide the letters thus: πεδ' ἄμοιρος ἔγεντο, "he turned out to be without a share," with μεταγίγνομαι in tmesis. In the same line, πολλᾶν ἡβᾶν also poses difficulties; πολλᾶν may be governed by some word in the lost part of the verse, or it may be connected with ἡβᾶν, but the latter implies an unusual usage of the gen. pl. of ἥβη. In the entry to the epigram for Hippaemon (02/01/07 = AP 7.304) the editors might have said more about the assignment of the text to the six-century epic poet Pisander of Rhodes. As it is, the ascription and, consequently, the date are presented as unquestionable, which is certainly not the case. Otherwise, the entry offers a valuable discussion of the text and a most convincing interpretation -- verse 3 is understood as referring entirely to Hippaemon and not to Hippaemon, his dog, his horse, and his servant. (pace Page, FGE 293-96, pp. 80-82).

SGO will prove to be valuable to scholars as a collection of texts otherwise dispersed in numerous publications and to a wider audience as an edition that introduces texts hitherto familiar only to specialists. Bibliographical references are reduced to the most important and recent publications, providing a good starting point for further investigation. The book aims at completeness in representing all the epigrams pertaining to the area in question, which naturally (the collection spans all the genres and twelve centuries) results in uneven treatment of epigrams and in occasional oversights. Some minor flaws may be the result of the final handling of the typeset: there are typos and inconsistencies in references to sources and in use of brackets for the missing parts of the texts; the map at the beginning of section 05 is reversed, and, to be pedantic, the employment of Eszett is inconsistent. The large format of the book is not optimal, leaving sometimes half a page blank, so that just over 600 epigrams occupy nearly 650 pages. Finally, all readers would have profited from an index, and one can imagine a variety of indices that would greatly increase the value of this collection -- from a simple word index to proper name, verse beginning, thematic, etc. indices. Unfortunately, no index of any type has been promised for later volumes.1


1.   In writing this review I have become indebted to Professor M.B. Wallace and Mr. R.L. Ast.

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